Australia: New labels warning pregnant women about alcohol anger wine industry

Key points:

  • The food safety authority is pushing for mandatory warning labels on alcoholic drinks to replace the current voluntary scheme
  • Small wineries say the new measure will impose “enormous” costs on many businesses already struggling due to drought
  • About 25 per cent of women in Australia continue to consume alcohol while pregnant

Small wineries in regional Australia are fighting back against a “prohibitive” move to explicitly warn pregnant women about the dangers of drinking alcohol.

The regulator Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) is pushing ahead with a proposal for mandatory warning labels on alcoholic drinks to replace the current voluntary scheme.

It is dividing health experts and small winemakers, who cannot agree on the future of labelling for alcoholic drinks.

Therese Fenwick, who runs Heritage Estate Wines south-west of Brisbane, argued the new labels would be “another hoop to jump through” for more than 2,000 small wineries around the country.

A voluntary scheme has been in place since 2011, but the Australian and NZ Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation has agreed mandatory labelling is needed because some alcohol products are not taking part.

That decision was endorsed by FSANZ, which said it considered scientific evidence, policy advice and the views of stakeholders.

Ms Fenwick said it would take thousands of dollars to replace her labels.

“We’ve done massive label runs already with the existing voluntary pregnancy labels, and it’s an enormous cost to do new dyes, new plates, new runs,” she said.

“It’s just an overhead that small businesses are struggling [with] already in these regional areas.

“We have 21 different wines — we’d have to multiply anything by 21 — it’s a cost of generally around $500 per plate, and it’s a cost of a couple of hundred dollars to get the new dyes.”

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